POLITICS

Cuban Immigrant Dies Of Apparent Suicide In Louisiana ICE Detention Center

The asylum-seeker was found unresponsive in his cell at Louisiana's Richwood Correctional Center, which has a history of violence.

A Cuban man legally seeking asylum in the U.S. died of an apparent suicide on Tuesday while detained at an immigration detention center in Richwood, Louisiana.

Staff at the Richwood Correctional Center found 41-year-old Roylan Hernandez-Diaz unresponsive in his cell. He was later pronounced dead by medical personnel at 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Wednesday.

Hernandez-Diaz’s death is still under investigation, though ICE reported that he appeared to have strangled himself.

Hernandez-Diaz had been in ICE custody for nearly five months. He initially applied for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, in May, The Associated Press reported.

Border agents deemed the immigrant “inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” ICE said in its news release. He was transferred to ICE custody on May 20.

Hernandez-Diaz’s wife, Yarelis Gutierrez, told BuzzFeed News that her husband was seeking asylum in the U.S. after speaking out against leaders of the Cuban government and being persecuted for it.

Gutierrez also said that immigration officials had asked her husband to provide more evidence to support his asylum claims, which proved difficult because he was in a detention center, according to BuzzFeed. 

“He told me he was going to participate in a hunger strike because of the abuse he endured in detention,” Gutierrez told the news site. “He never said he was going to hurt or kill himself. This is all news to me, and I don’t believe it’s true.”

The Richwood Correctional Center, a private detention facility operated by LaSalle Corrections, began housing undocumented immigrants earlier this year after signing a deal with ICE to take in detainees

Richwood has a history of guards being accused of using excessive force and intentionally causing emotional distress, according to local reports.

In June, a former prison guard captain was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to pepper-spraying two handcuffed inmates who were on their knees in 2016, AP reported at the time. Four other guards pleaded guilty for their part in the same incident.

Hernandez-Diaz is the second undocumented adult in ICE custody who has died this month and the eighth to die this year, according to a tally kept by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Nebane Abienwi, a 37-year-old man from Cameroon, died earlier this month after suffering a brain hemorrhage, according to ICE. Abienwi was in ICE custody for less than a month.

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